The Lakers & 76ers: the future of the NBA
Joel Embiid pulled on his white Philly jersey today at the Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, in what proved to be a thoroughly entertaining game of basketball in the NBA. The result came out 115 to109 in favor of the 76ers, but the game was a hotly contested one and gave us plenty of awe-inspiring moments.
Joel Embiid (46 pts, 15 rebs, 7 blks, 7 asts), Ben Simmons (18pts, 10 asts, 9 rebs), Brandon Ingram (26 pts, 11 rebs), Kyle Kuzma (24 pts, 7 rebs) and Jordan Clarkson ( 20pts, 6 rebs, 5 asts), all put in major efforts in a score fest of a game that delivered on the hype that surrounded it (thanks to Twitter antics of Lavar Ball and Embiid).
The enthusiasm and positivity around both the 76ers and the Lakers is unique in the NBA at a time when there are multiple super teams throughout the league. Starting with the superstar quartet of Golden State Warriors, the NBA now has more teams with two or more legitimate superstars than it has had at any time in the past.
The hype surrounding these teams make sense because of the superstar starters that these teams currently field. When it comes to the 76ers or the Lakers, the hype is unique because it is not based on the team's current capabilities. The positive atmosphere around the Lakers and Philly is based on what they can be doing 3-4 years down the line.
Both teams have a stockpile of young talent with high ceilings and are all expected to become regulars in the All-Star squad in the future. Philly boasts of elite talent like Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz (once he returns from his current shoulder injury) to go with great young role players in the form of Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Luwawu-Cabarrot. The Lakers have an even younger core of potential superstars in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma to go with similarly talented support cast in Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., and Julius Randle.
It is not difficult to envision a future where these players form the new set of superstars and battle it out against each other. But what makes this an even more enticing prospect is the fact that these teams are both built using the draft. The benefits of using the draft to build a solid core does not need to be highlighted (case in point - GSW's ability to sign Kevin Durant due to having the core built from the draft). What must truly entice all the Philly and Lakers fans is that despite having great cores for the future, both teams have deep pockets in terms of the salary cap for the Free Agency market before the next season.
The Lakers (should they trade/stretch Luol Deng and not offer a new contract to Julius Randle) will have cap room to sign two top NBA superstar free agents in the 2018 Free Agency sweepstakes and Philly will have the cap space to sign one top superstar and another high-end complementary piece to an already good team.
The Free Agent list for 2018 season is deep including some of the biggest names like LeBron James, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Isiah Thomas, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Nikola Jokic, among others. Signing any of these big names in the next free agency will make these two teams instant contenders; more so in the case of Philly due to the weaker Eastern Conference and the more NBA ready core, but the Lakers ability to land two superstars must not be discounted.
If the game today is a sign then the next major NBA rivalry is going to be a hugely entertaining one. The last time Lakers and 76ers were the top of the pile in their respective conferences at the same time was when Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson were going head to head as the team and league alphas.
The playing styles have changed big time and neither team relies heavily on the production of one player, but the entertainment value of having these basketballing superpowers back at their prime and going up against each other for the years to come has league-wide fans salivating in anticipation.
While the future is never guaranteed, the futures of the 76ers and Lakers look like as much of a sure shot, as anything can be.